H&H’s 135th birthday: William Whitaker — ‘I still think about that moment every day’

  • Through the highs and lows of equestrian sport, Horse & Hound has been there – documenting the many achievements of Britain’s top riders and sharing their experiences on the world stage. We all have our treasured memories from the last few decades of competition, but what would some of our best-loved celebrities single out as their proudest moments? Next up, as we celebrate H&H’s 135th birthday with a bumper issue (dated 20 June), is showjumper William Whitaker…

    Victory is always sweet in front of a home crowd. Six months after winning the World Cup at Olympia, Britain’s top equestrian extravaganza, showjumper William Whitaker is still bathing in the afterglow.

    “Even now, I still can’t really believe it,” says William, who had set his sights on the class as a child, when he watched his uncles John and Michael take the honours. “I still think about that moment every day.

    “I was saving my horse [Utamaro D’Ecaussines, pictured winning the class] that week because I wanted to keep him fresh,” he recalls. “He jumped brilliantly in the first round but there were 17 clears, so I realised that going clear was only a fraction of the job done. I had my plan for the jump-off and felt such a rush over the final fence. I knew I’d done as much as I could, but there were still eight or nine to go – I just had to sit it out and keep my fingers crossed.

    “Laura Kraut rode last. I was in the collecting ring, watching on the screen, and with every fence she cleared I remember thinking: ‘I can’t believe I’ve got this far, only to lose to the last one’. But then [TV presenter] Clare Balding said to me: ‘You’ve done it!’.

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    “It takes a while to process a big win like that. I’m not really one for the prizes – the rugs, the rosettes and the watches. For me, the memories are all in my mind.

    “Along with the King George, the World Cup at Olympia is one of the two biggest classes in Britain. If you’d asked me as a kid which class I would like to win as a grown-up, I would have said this one. It really meant something to me – all I wanted was to have my name in the history books as the winner.”

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